Symantec says spam surged to 72 percent of all email traffic in November, the highest percentage for any month this year.

Spam volumes typically hover in the 50 percent to 60 percent range, but increased significantly last month according to Symantec's monthly 'State of Spam Report'.

Doug Bowers, a senior director at Symantec, attributed the November surge to a decisive effort by spammers to increase their capacity to send more email using tactics such as the Storm worm. "The fact that spam volume continued to increase and stayed up seems to signal they were having some success," Bowers says.

In niche categories observed in November, spammers were disguising a virus-hosting site in spam emails by exploiting international public interest in the case of the missing British child, Madeleine McCann. Another odd sighting, Symantec notes, was spam that uses a "funny .GIF that shows a snowball hurtling at you through your computer". Spammers are also said to be taking advantage of the season to market free gift cards for well-known companies.

Symantec, which gathers data by monitoring 450 million inboxes worldwide, also says November saw the first traces of Olympics-related spam due to the upcoming 2008 Olympics in Beijing. In addition, there was a huge email harvesting campaign in which Symantec blocked more than 35 million blank-message emails.